Sunday, January 25, 2015

Apartment Quirks

One of the fun things about living in an apartment has been all the fun little quirks that come with it.

Like the huge crack in the front door that seems to be getting bigger and bigger with each day. Light shouldn't shine through a solid wood door. But our cracked door shines.

Like the fact that the person who lived here before us must have had some serious anger management issues because all the doors in the apartment have signs of being kicked and slammed.

Like the shower nobs that have no clear indication of where to go for hot and cold. There are two nobs. One spins to turn the water on and one spins  to 'supposedly' get hot and cold. I can spin and spin those nobs, right left, it doesn't matter. I swear there must be some secret code, some undisclosed number of times they need to be spun to get tot he elusive hot water. Maybe three times for the first nob and two on the second? I've tried counting. I've tried keeping track, but there's no rhyme or reason. Sometimes it can be burning hot water at one specific spot in the circle, and then it gets budged a fraction of a inch and it turns to freezing cold water. It's a bit temperamental. I've given up hope of having a relaxing shower where I'm not dancing in and out of hot and cold water, or trying to break 'the code' to get the perfect temperature of water as I race to get ready for work.

Like the neighbors who open and close their garage door about a hundred times a day because they have family on the other side of the apartment complex, and it's faster to go through the garage than around the buildings. The sound reverberating through the apartment each and every time.

Like the oven that doesn't have nobs with temperature settings on it anymore. Want to bake a cake at 350 degrees? Not at our place. We can only guess the temperature and hope it's close enough.

Like not being able to get the couch up through the front door when we moved in because of how tight the squeeze was with the stairs, and the roof, and the wall right at the end of our entryway. We ended up having to bring it up through the front window. . .

(Brandon and Wayne lifting the couch into place)
Our apartment is above, the garage beneath. It's a nice little setup for our needs. 

But the best apartment quirk of all is little Adventist church that our looking room window overlooks, and the friendly member who came over and invited our girls to join their Adventurers group as they wistfully sat on our steps and watched the other kids play and sing.

Quirks and all, I love these kicked in, cracking walls. I'll take them all, tuck them into my memories, and savor them later as we go down memory lane in years to come about the apartment that we once lived in that . . .


P.S. I really didn't do anything to get that couch into the apartment, as it may at first appear in the picture. I simply stood there and steadied the ladder and said my last goodbyes to my children and family before the couch miraculously found it's way into the apartment instead of on top of my head. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mt. San Antonio Falls Hike

Historically, MLK weekend has always been a snow trip weekend for our family. Unfortunately, we were unable to go last year. Grandma had just broken her hip, and needed constant care. So, today we decided that it was high time that we went out on our annual 'let's chase the snow' trip.
Someone was a little excited to put on her winter hat and scarf. 

Ready to head out and chase after that elusive snow. 
(Cat in the Hat will appear in many of these photo's. Eleanor is the VIP in our class this week, and we have taken him with us to share with the class our Adventures with him this weekend. 
She's been dying for this opportunity all year, and is a little excited about it - if you can't tell. )

It is serious business, this snow finding thing. 
The hunt is on! 

We brazenly ignored the 'little' fact that the mountains around us are sorely lacking in the snow department. We figured we'd head up to Mt. Baldy Snow Tubing area, as their website promises snow. 

We arrived with great expectation. The parking lot and surrounding area completely dry. No snow anywhere. Not unless you want to pay $150 for a family of four to take a lift to the very top of the mountain where they have the snow tubing area. Probably a man made snow area by the looks of it, and the fact we've had so little rain and cold weather this 'winter.'

So. . . we turned around and decided to just make a hiking trip of it. We quickly found an area packed with cars, and a sign promising a waterfall ahead. Brilliant. Who doesn't love a good waterfall hike? And with that many cars there? We knew there must be something good. We left our snow clothes and play equipment in the car, grabbed our picnic lunch, and headed out for a hike.

Snow here? Nope. No snow here. 

Who needs snow? This life is beautiful anyway! 

But - hark!? What is that we spy covered in the blackest of dirt?

We will get you, snow! You are mine! We will reveal your secret to the world. 

Why, yes, it is hidden treasure. Snow, attempting to disguise itself as dirt. But we weren't fooled.

Precious snow.

We left behind our little treasure to find the falls. And how can a hike be a hike without 'the perfect' walking stick? Once found, the hike is on!

Let's do this!

Loving the easy paved path for the girls to walk on

Wait? What's that?! A giant pile of snow?!!? And the falls? 
But it looked like a little bit more of a hike and we were tired. And hungry. Time for lunch. 

Mmmm. Cheese and stripple sandwiches. 

Our view from our lunch spot. 

Ready to keep hiking down to the falls - cross a little river . . . 

Ok, fine - a trickling brook. 

Lots of dogs on this hike, which made Annabelle endlessly happy. 

Goodbye, walking stick. It was nice knowing you. 
Hello, icy little snowman. 

See that? Pure joy. These are the moments I live for. 

Beautiful. Just beautiful. 


Tripped and fell in the snow. Time for a selfie, of course. :-p 

Wet bum!

And . . . then they were done. Too cold for these littles. 

See that face? I can practically hear her teeth chattering. 

But the falls were pretty nice to sit next to in the warm sunshine and soak up the warmth and the peaceful sounds of water splashing on rock. 

Hello from San Antonio Falls. If you haven't come here yet, I highly recommend it. Great hike for kids. Quick, easy, and totally beautiful. A perfect combination. 

Now, there is one little spot where it gets a little tricky. It is much steeper than it looks here. My heart lurched a few times, but the girls are good hikers. I knew I had nothing to worry about (I say as I hovered nearby). 

Alas, it's time to go home. 

There is so much beauty in this world. It takes my breath away.

Sure, the girls cried about cold hands and wet clothes since we left all our snow gear back in the car, but it was totally worth it. They've already forgotten the discomfort and tears.
Kids are pretty resilient like that.

Can't wait to find the next spot to explore, the next hill to climb, or seascape to catch.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Nearly four years ago our little family gave up the sanctuary of our own home and moved in to care for my paternal grandmother in her home.

A year and a half later, we relocated south and moved in with Brandon's brother to give us time to find the right home for us. After about four months, we ended up moving in to care for my maternal grandmother who begged us to come and help her. She lived five minutes from where I worked, saving me hours in the day from the commute. We agreed it would be the best solution for both her and us.

Two years we lived and cared for her in her home, and so many memories were made. The girls have adored their time lived with both their great-grandmothers. But now, we find ourselves no longer needing to provide care for anyone else. We find ourselves no longer living in anyone else's home.

We may be in a teeny-tiny two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. We may not have a yard for the girls to play in. A lot of our belongings need to stay boxed away. . . and there may still be boxes that need unpacking in literally every room we have. . .

But for the first time in four years, we have a home. For the first time in four years I can come home from work to my home. I can relax, and not worry about anyone but us. It is a feeling that I'd forgotten existed, this concept of a house being more than a house. I'd forgotten that four walls can be a haven, that they can provide a safe place. A home. A sanctuary.

The outside of our apartment building. Isn't it homey? 

I'm so glad to be home. 


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hope Found at the Beach

We didn't have much chance for 'vacation' on our Christmas vacation this last break. Our days were spent packing boxes, organizing our junk, and all the joy that comes along with a move.

I was set on having a least one day at the beach. Because. . . beach. It turned into not a whole day, because - again - moving. But, we were able to make it to the beach before the sun set one particularly beautiful December afternoon.

Because it was cold, and because it was going to be late. I didn't bring swimsuits or changes of clothes for the girls. I assumed we would just walk along the beach, snuggle on the sand together.  Hunt for shells, and then enjoy some fun on the Pier after sunset. I packed us some snacks, threw in one towel 'just in case,' and raced off to the beach.

But. . . the girls had other ideas. As soon as we made it to where sea met land, they both kicked off their shoes, pulled up their jeans, and ran laughing into the lapping waves as I called, "Okay, but don't get your jeans wet!"

Futile words.

I sat back and snapped as many pictures as I could of their joyful playing, soaking in their giggles, and squeals of "it's so cold!" each time the water tickled their toes.

One of Annaelle's favorite things to do is 'feed the beach,' which is just digging up fistfuls of sand and tossing them into the waves. I love this tradition. 

I love everything about this picture. The girls playing, the waves, the sunset, the seagull. My heart is happy whenever I look at it. 

There is hope, my friends. In the hardest moments. In the times where everything feels hopeless, and insurmountable. There is hope. I have felt at times through many difficulties this past year that 'nothing will ever be okay again.' But that's a lie. Everything will be okay. In the end. And if it's not okay? It's not the end. Someone wise once told me that, and I rather like it. 
There is hope. Take heart. The sea has spoken. 
 Taking life one day at a time. One moment at a time. And filling in the uncertainty and the difficulties with the certainty that in this life, there is Love. So much Love. Even the darkest times can't dim out this love. So, I'm finding the moments where love shines brightest, like these, and hanging onto them for all I'm worth.  

I know it's blurry - but as I took this photo my phone died, and I spent the rest of our time totally unplugged, with this as our view:

And with this, the girls crawled onto my lap, the one towel wrapped around them both and their soaked jeans. My jacket tucking around their feet, providing a smidgen more warmth. They cried pitifully about being cold, and I felt like a terrible mother. What mother forgets to bring an extra pair of warm clothes and blankets to the beach in winter expecting them to not want to play in the water? I mentally slapped myself. But the cold kept their energetic bodies snuggled in my lap for longer than I ever get while they are awake. We talked, munched on crisp apples, snuggled,  soaked in the sunset, the waves, the sand, and each other before heading to the pier to explore. 

I think I'll forget the extra clothes and blankets the next time we go to the beach. Whatever I can do get those extra snuggles and extra doses of love.

It's these moments that fill my soul with endless hope. 
I hope your new year finds you with more moments like these than not. That Love shines brighter than the darkness. That the good days outnumber the bad. Because there will be bad, and there will be trouble. But grab onto hope, my friends. Love wins. 

P.S. If you ask the girls about this trip now, they don't remember their soaked jeans, and how sad they were about being cold and miserable. All they remember now is the warmth of my embrace, and snuggling together as the sun tucked into these sea. See? Love wins.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Mirror's On"

Hands and Eyes. 
(Hands and Eyes!) 

Lately I've noticed a trend with my daughters. When they talk to each other it goes a little something like this:

A: (banging on our bedroom door that E had just locked) Let me in!! I want in! 
E: But I'm guarding mommy, and keeping her safe from you. 
A: I'll be good! I promise. E: Ok, Annabelle, 'Mirrors on!' 
A: Mirrors on! 
E: I promise not to bounce, pull anyone's hair, lick anyone, or I'll get sent out of the room with no crying. 
A: I promise not to bounce, pull anyone's hair, lick anyone, or I'll get sent out of the room with no crying.
E: Mirrors off.
A: Mirrors off.
E: Ok, I can let you in now.
A: (bounces in). Hmm. . . okay. Never mind. I think I have to leave. This room has too many rules. (bounces back out happily)
E: (locks the door again and looks at me with a sly smile) See, I'm your body guard. 

I've also heard conversations that have gone a bit like this: 

A: Ok, Eleanor - mirror's on! (holds both hands up)
E: (arms go up) mirror's on! 
A: I will not -
E: I will not -
A: play
E: play. . . you need to chunk your words together more! 
A: Hey! it's still mirrors on. 
E: Hey! it's still mirrors on. 
A: good. 
E: good. 
A: I will not play with 
E: I will not play with
A: Annabelle's dolls. 
E: Annabelle's dolls. 
A: Mirror's off. 
E: Mirror's off. 
A: Now teach someone. Ready? Teach! 
E: Who do I teach? 
A: You can teach me. 
E: Okay, I will not play with Annabelle's dolls. I will not play with Annabelle's dolls. . . I will not -
A: Good. Now, don't play with my dolls. 
E: okaaay. 

I've been really enjoying using the Whole Brain Teaching techniques in my classroom this year, and it's clear the girls have picked up a thing or two from it. Plus, I've had such great success with it that I've been known to use it at home with Annabelle just to make sure she has heard what I tell her. Otherwise, what we tell her literally goes in one ear and out the other. WBT for the win! I didn't realize that Whole Brain Parenting is even a thing until I started writing this post and went to the website to link here and read about the new WBT Parenting Webinar. May be worth checking out if you are new to WBT. It really is great stuff - even if it seems a bit wonky at first. I know, I thought it was kind of wonky at first too. But really, I promise. It works.

Without the WBT techniques we've had conversations that went like this:

Me: Okay, Annabelle. I need you to take your shoes to your room and put your socks in your hamper. A: (bounces around the room)
Me: Annabelle?
A: (bounce, bounce)
Me: Annabelle. . . what did I say?
A: (pause) you said you would take my shoes and socks to my room.
Me: (staring blankly). Uhhhhh. . . no. No, not quite. Let's try that again. Annabelle. Mirror's on! (arms waving up)
A: (giggles - arms go up as she looks at me). Mirrors on!
Me: (gesturing with my hands) I will take my shoes to my room -
A: (Mimicking gestures) I will take my shoes to my room -
Me: (gesturing ...) and put my socks in my hamper.
A: (mimicking gesture) And put my socks in my hamper.
Me. (hands down) Mirror's off.
A: (hands down) Mirrors's off.
Me: Okay - ready to teach it to someone?
A: (nods)
Me: Okay - Te-ACH!
A: (teaching E) I will take my shoes to my room and put my socks in my hamper.
Me: Excellent! Now - go to it, kiddo.
A: (scampers off to her room with shoes and socks)

It's like magic. Another tool in my parenting tool-belt that I pull out, like parenting with Love and Logic. These methods, I swear, I don't know how I'd parent without losing my mind if I didn't have them. I know so many people say "throw out the parenting books, they'll make you crazy!" But maybe I'm just a nerd. Or maybe I just have no natural instincts. I'll be honest, I didn't have the best parenting models to go by growing up, so when I knew I'd become a mother I scoured every parenting book I could find so I could learn a new script to give my kids and not the one I had. I'm far from perfect, but I'm feeling confident that I'm raising self-reliant, creative, confidant, joy-filled kids. That is the best I can ask for, and all I really want as a parent. Anything more is cake.

Wait . . . did someone mention cake?

Life has been crazy busy. Lots of upheaval. A big move was undertaken over Christmas break. Lot's of stress all around. BUT I am going to try to do better about blogging again. It amazes me daily that how fast the girls are growing up, and these are the moments of their childhood I want to capture before they are gone forever except in our memories. 

Mirrors off.